Creating a Stronger Link between Learning and Performance

For all of the time and resources dedicated to building and delivering learning programs — plus the time asked of employees to engage with learning — organizations don’t seem to be expecting much in return. Most companies decided that the outcome for learning is learning, and as such, programs can be measured in completion rates and hours delivered.

This approach has always been very shortsighted. It makes the huge assumption that the learning program is effective by definition and all we need to know is whether or not people completed it and can pass an assessment of some sort. In this environment, learning is completely divorced from individual and organizational performance.

But performance is precisely what learning is about. It is the ultimate measurement of whether learning is helping the business. Are programs changing the behaviors that influence individual and organizational performance goals?

Brandon Hall Group’s Learning and Performance Study found that fewer than one-third of companies say their talent development objectives are strongly or completely tied to learning objectives. This means that for the rest, there is little connection between how learners are supposed to demonstrate mastery of skills and competencies and the learning programs designed to improve them. 

Brandon Hall Group’s State of Learning Practices Study found that about three-quarters of companies have made creating a stronger link between learning and performance the top priority for learning. Clearly, this is the right direction but what does it take to make it so? One of the key elements is a learning ecosystem that drives continuous learning by making learning stickier and more applicable on the job. It can change the way employees view learning — from an intrusion to a critical tool for their performance.

To successfully drive performance, learning solutions must be designed with distinct phases: knowledge acquisition, practice and application. Each phase is just as important as the others and should consist of multiple delivery methods and modalities. By building programs that are composed of these multiple components, companies can guide their learners through a journey from acquiring new information, to practicing what they have learned, to gradually higher-stakes real-world situations in which the newly acquired skills can be applied.

Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice Preferred Provider EI Design developed a framework for building a Learning and Performance Ecosystem. Their integrated approach to learning and performance is designed with the learners’ needs in mind and always driven by key outcomes — for individuals and the business. This sets the proper foundation with a focus on the right metrics. EI Design then helps their clients choose the right evaluation model to measure impact. The goal is to take a holistic approach and drive performance and behavior change via several key considerations:

  • Awareness. Learners must be familiar with the ecosystem’s elements and available resources. If there is any friction in using it, it will never be leveraged to its potential.
  • Immersion. Learning activities such as scenarios and problem-solving make the learning more engaging and relatable to the job.
  • Access. Learners should be able to quickly find and use what they need when they need it.
  • Reinforcement. Giving learners opportunities to revisit material and verify its value to the job provides reinforcement and improves retention.
  • Self-direction. When employees discover information and share it with peers, they become more engaged in the learning.
  • Evaluation. Track how much and how well the learning is used on the job to determine what works and what may need to change.
  • Iteration. Use evaluation results to incrementally improve learning when opportunities arise. This approach allows learning to shift with the business.

To learn more about EI Design’s Learning and performance ecosystem, please take a look at their eBook: Getting Ahead of the Curve – Futureproofing Corporate Training With Learning And Performance Consulting

David Wentworth, Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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